Advocating for the newspaper industry and local communities

Working together as a united front to benefit newspapers, communities and democracy


The relationships that members of America's Newspapers have with their legislators have proven tremendously important this year in helping to generate support in Congress for the Community News and Small Business Support Act, Dean Ridings, CEO of America's Newspapers, told attendees at the Mega-Conference.

With the recent addition of five more co-sponsors, the Community News and Small Business Support Act (H.R. 4756) now has 46 co-sponsors, with a fairly even number of Democrats and Republicans supporting the legislation. 

Ridings noted that particular attention is being paid to encouraging support among members of the Ways and Means Committee.  "If you have a member of the Ways and Means Committee in your area and they're not signed on as a co-sponsor," Ridings said, "please reach out to them. ... There's still a big opportunity to grow support there."

Chris McCannell, senior government affairs advisor with GrayRobinson, has been working with Ridings and the America's Newspapers leadership this year to grow connections on Capitol Hill.  In a conversation on stage at the Mega-Conference, McCannell and Ridings talked about ways newspaper executives can continue to help build those legislative relationships in a bipartisan manner.

McCannell said there is a committed cohort of leaders of both the House and Senate who have an awareness of the value that newspapers bring to their local communities, and to the role that newspapers play in our democracy.  They also are concerned about threats that fake news and propaganda exert on the political system.  McCannell noted that the America's Newspapers Legislative Committee meets weekly to discuss the issues and outreach efforts, and committee members are encouraged by the momentum that has been built over the past year.

As members reach out to their legislators, McCannell encouraged them to seek two-way dialogue — not just about this particular piece of legislation, but also on topics that the legislators may have a particular concern with.  He cited, for example, keeping them informed about investments that your newspaper is making in the community or a new reporter who may be hired and is covering a topic that might be interesting to that official.

Danielle Coffey, president and CEO of the News/Media Alliance

Danielle Coffey, president and CEO of the News/Media Alliance, also addressed the Mega-Conference and talked about the value the news industry has gained by the two associations working together as a united front. She said demonstrating a united front "helps us get standing with legislators who are dealing with a lot of issues every day."

She said that what local newspapers produce is "incredibly valuable to communities, to society, to democracy and it's worth every ounce of effort that we put in to make sure this industry thrives."

She said, "We must ensure the regulatory environment creates a business landscape for publishers to monetize their content and control their own fate, regardless of platform, distributor, media or any emerging technology."

"To do that," she said, "first, we've continued to focus on compensation legislation to get our fair market value back from the Big Tech platforms." She cited the News/Media Alliance's work in support of the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act, as well as bills in California, Illinois and New York.

She also discussed the News/Media Alliance's work with regard to artificial intelligence, a White Paper that shows the value of newspapers' content, as well as other key advocacy issues that the Alliance is focused on.

She said she values the relationship that the News/Media Alliance has with America's Newspapers, saying "we're stronger" when working together to look out for common interests across the industry.

Chris Klein, president of the Arizona Media Association

Chris Klein, president of the Arizona Media Association, opened the advocacy session at the Mega-Conference with a look at a bold move that led the Arizona Newspaper Association and Arizona Broadcasters Association — last summer — to bring all of the TV stations, radio stations, newspapers, digital-only operations and magazines together under one umbrella coalition statewide.  He said the goal of the new Arizona Media Association is to build its microphone even bigger so that when they're in the state legislature fighting for press freedom or tackling issues related to ad taxes or public notice legislation "we now represent close to 400 media brands statewide, instead of a fractured set of coalitions that represent much smaller groups."  This has enabled them, he said, to take some big steps as an organization in defense of local news and to support democracy.

He noted, for example, that in partnership with the state of Arizona, the media coalition will — for the first time in history — produce 30 to 40 political debates statewide that will be shared by every local media brand.  He said this will ensure that audiences across the state have access to information from candidates in Congressional and Senate races — instead of the debates only being aired on one brand and being missed by other audiences.

Francis Wick, CEO of Wick Communications, a member of the America's Newspapers board of directors and co-chair of the Legislative Committee

Francis Wick, CEO of Wick Communications, a member of the America's Newspapers board of directors and co-chair of the Legislative Committee, echoed the points made during this session about the importance of newspapers and associations working together on the advocacy issues facing the industry.  "All communities are not the same," Wick said.  But, he said, "as we look across the board, we see newspapers closing at the rate of two and a half a week.  Those are small, rural papers that make up a big portion of the constituency of America's Newspapers."

He complimented the work being done by Ridings and the highly engaged members of the America's Newspapers board, Legislative Committee and volunteers, saying they are all dedicated to trying to advance efforts to support local journalism as an industry.  He also cited the innovative approach being taken by the Arizona Media Association, saying he's very proud of the good work they are doing.

Winning for the next generation is what advocacy is all about, he said — "establishing ourselves today, telling people what's going on and making sure they're aware so that when we go to them for the ask, we have the opportunity to succeed."